SINGAPORE - Heavy bamboo poles loaded with laundry will soon be a thing of the past in some 230,000 Housing Board (HDB) flats, as they will be replaced with a new retractable clothes drying rack.
Flats built between 1987 and 1997 will be eligible for the upgrade under the extended Home Improvement Programme (HIP), the HDB said on Monday (March 30). The first batch of 55,000 units will be offered the extended HIP this year.
The new laundry rack comes with six horizontal stainless steel poles that can be extended and retracted within the frame of the rack. Residents can easily reach the poles from the kitchen window when hanging and retrieving laundry.
Developed by the HDB, the rack is designed with elderly residents in mind and is safer to use, as residents would no longer need to lift and manoeuvre heavy bamboo poles out the window, said the HDB.
It was first piloted at Block 641 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 in 2018 to test its functionality and robustness, such as whether it could withstand Singapore's weather.
HDB said it received feedback from residents, who said the rack requires less effort to use.
The retractable rack will replace the current T-shaped rack which provides support on both ends of the laundry pole in the current HIP.
The extended HIP package also includes repairing structural cracks, replacing piping for waste or soil discharge, and upgrading the electrical load. Upgrading works for these "essentials" are fully paid for by the Government.
The package has also been refreshed with more contemporary and better quality home fittings for optional improvement items.
These include laminated timber front door that are more scratch-resistant and durable, in place of veneer doors, and a modern steel grille entrance gate with an interior thumb-turn knob, which can be unlocked from the inside without the use of a key, in place of the current mild steel gate.
For bathrooms' wall and floor tiles, residents can pick from a range of designs. Tile sizes are also larger than previously offered.
Better quality water-efficient sanitary fittings such as taps and water cisterns will have a rating of at least "Very Good" under PUB's Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme.
Flat owners who choose these optional improvement items will pay for their share of works carried out in their flats at subsidised rates, paying between 5 and 12.5 per cent of the costs.
Residents who opt for the full suite of optional improvement items can expect to pay between $550 to $1,375, depending on flat type.
The extended HIP will be gradually rolled out to all other eligible flats over the years, although the HDB did not specify a time frame.
The programme can proceed only when at least 75 per cent of a block's eligible households that are made up of Singapore citizens have voted for it.
Introduced in 2007, HIP focuses on improvements within the flat and addresses common maintenance problems related to ageing flats.
Previously available only for flats built up to 1986, the expansion of the programme to the second batch of flats was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech in August 2018.
The extended HIP is expected to cost the Government more than $2 billion.
Madam Jahara Bakroon, an Ang Mo Kio resident in the trial block, said she prefers the new rack over the old bamboo poles for its convenience and safety. She live in a two-room flat on the 11th floor with her husband and two granddaughters.
"I'm very happy with it because it's very easy to use and clean. Last time, the bamboo poles were too heavy so I seldom put my clothes outside," said the 72-year-old cleaner, who added that leaning over the window edge to insert the bamboo poles into the slots hurts her ribs so she only hung her laundry indoors.
So far, she has not experienced any hiccups with the rack. Her only gripe is that it is not large enough for all her laundry, especially when she is washing her granddaughters' school uniforms, so she occasionally uses bamboo poles which she keeps indoors.
Town councils will be responsible for the racks' maintenance, as part of common property. However HDB said residents should grease the rollers and clean the tracks periodically to prevent any build-up of dust and drying up of the grease in the ball-bearing rollers over time.
Some residents are looking forward to the improvements that will come with the HIP.
Engineer Dannie Prenda, 56, who opted for all the bathroom upgrades for his four-room flat in Bukit Batok , said the long-term benefits outweigh the mild inconveniences such as dust and noise.
He lives with his wife and his four adult children have all temporarily moved out to live with relatives and friends while renovation works are ongoing.
"Said Mr Prenda: "This will alleviate maintenance problems down the road and adds to the service life of the flat, which my wife and I plan to stay in for the rest of our lives."